How do I support my child through study at Duke’s Sixth Form?
Sixth form study is different to and often much harder than study at GCSE. This is because all sixth form students are expected to partake in much more independent study than was previously required at GCSE and as a consequence, workloads become much higher.
The students who achieve the higher grades at the end of Year 13 tend to be those who are most successfully able to manage their independent study time effectively and keep on top of their work load. Exam board guidelines state that students who take academic A level subjects should be carrying out at least three hours of independent study per week.
Independent study can consist of:
- Re-reading and re-writing class notes
- Organising files
- Carrying out additional reading or research
- Work set by class teacher
- Attempting past paper questions
- Revising for examined modules
Vocational courses do not have a recommendation of how long a student should carry out independent research, although with new specifications in all qualifications from 2017 introducing a mandatory examination element that must be passed in order to pass the course overall, those students who have the most effective revision practices are the ones most likely to achieve the higher vocational grades of D/D*.
Whatever subjects they choose, students in Year 12 and 13 will be taking subjects with an examination element and will have up to three periods in the year where they will be required to revise in preparation for exams. This is because as well as an external January examination period for vocational subjects and the external Summer exam period for both academic and vocational subjects, we also hold our own internal assessment periods in the autumn and spring. All of our vocational courses now have an examination module that must be passed in order to pass the overall qualification. As such it is vitally important that students are able to revise effectively.
There is no one set way of revising that works for everyone as we all learn in different ways. There are however, some things that everyone can do that will ensure the best possible chance of being prepared for exams. These are:
Start revision early. Cramming a night or two nights before an exam is never effective as it does not allow deep learning. Little and often for weeks before is the best policy. This also avoids fatigue and panic – effective revision’s worst enemy!
Ensure that revision is organised. Plan a revision timetable to help balance preparation for a number of different subjects and ensure equal and adequate time for each. This should be done at the start of any revision period
Revise in 15 minute chunks. After 15 minutes our brains start to get tired and don’t take in as much information. The most effective revision pattern is to revise for 15 minutes and then take a 5 minute break before revising for a further 15 minutes. This not only keeps the brain fresh but has the added advantage of making revision time pass more quickly and be less of a chore.
Try to do something different during breaks between revision sessions to relieve fatigue and help your brain recover for the next session. Going for a quick walk or doing some form of physical activity is highly beneficial.
Vary revision activities. People learn more if revision is interesting or varied. Possible activities include spider diagrams; key questions; drawing posters; making up mnemonic rhymes; past paper questions; writing flash cards; re-writing notes; explaining topics to friends, mum, dad or even the dog. A combination of the above helps to keep interest and use different parts of the brain and different skills and should ensure that revision is deeper. Any combination of topics that first help to learn information and then use that information will be far more effective than just reading prior notes.